DE Jason Pierre-Paul
When Jason Licht pulled the trigger on a trade that sent veteran pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul to the Bucs, it seemed like a no-brainer. Adding a former Pro Bowler at the cost of a third-round pick (and a fourth-round swap) wouldn’t come back to bite Tampa.
However, Pierre-Paul proved he is worth the third-rounder and much more. He has brought life to the Buccaneers pass rush. ‘JPP’ already has four sacks on the season and is thriving for a defense desperate to cause pressure.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last season the Buccaneers finished with a league-low 22 sacks. Pierre-Paul could push the Bucs over that mark almost by himself.
Sacks and quarterback hits will get Pierre-Paul in the spotlight, but his run defense deserves praise. His ability to set the edge has allowed Lavonte David to rack up tackles. As ‘JPP’ does all the dirty work, the athletic linebacking corps attacks the runner to finish the play.
S Jordan Whitehead
His role hasn’t been as critical of the players mentioned above, but it’s already apparent that Jordan Whitehead has rare talent. Whitehead makes impact plays even with limited reps.
Quarterbacks haven’t tested him in coverage much, but his willingness to play the run could be bread and butter. Whitehead may be on the small side, but he has the attitude of a box safety.
With the Buccaneers typically in nickel, his versatility and toughness could be an essential weapon as defensive coordinator Mike Smith looks to turn his defense around.
The Buccaneers are paper thin at safety and Whitehead is the key to keeping the unit above water. In his absence, Isaiah Johnson failed to hold his own. Veteran safety Chris Conte will be on the shelf for the time being so Whitehead will get the bulk of the safety snaps.